Okay, I hate to be the girl who hates what everyone else loves, but that’s my general attitude toward Les Misérables. I had such high hopes and really wanted to love it, but during the seemingly unending two-and-a-half hours of viewing time, I often found myself more irritated than inspired. Number one problem, though this movie certainly isn’t the only one guilty of using this technique: when a story is set in Paris, WHY must everyone speak with a British accent, and Cockney if they happen to be poor? I understand a French accent is more difficult, but even attempting it would be nice (which I did appreciate from Sacha Baron Cohen in “Master of the House,” even if it was facetious.)
As my mom and I drove home from the theater, we discussed that the movie feels like a “best of” rendition of the stage production, because it basically jumps from song to song, which, in my opinion, causes major gaps in the storyline. Because the story itself is huge and makes such dramatic time jumps, the audience must take for granted the relationship development between characters at face value. Because we jump from seeing nine-year-old Cosette to eighteen-year-old Cosette, we must assume that she and Jean do indeed have a familial relationship which would cause Jean to do anything to make her happy (even if that “anything” means trudging through the sewers with an unconscious Marius over his shoulder.) Rather than taking the time to explore these relationships further, director Tom Hooper has us move rapidly from big event to big event, which I found made me only more aware of the length of the film as I could never tell where we were in the overall story arc. Each event in the film is major, so it’s hard to identify the true climax — everything is important. I’ve personally never seen the stage production, but I imagine it plays in a similar fashion, so Hooper can’t be entirely blamed for this. The only character who truly develops onscreen is Jean, but we as an audience are forced to accept the information delivered rather than watching the characters develop in relation to one another.
And speaking of characters, I also felt that there were a few imbalances in character importance that contributed to the overall confusion of the film. As Javert is the primary villain, I think it would have been more effective if we’d seen less of him. A constant threat in the story is the notion that Javert is always on Jean’s heels, but I felt like his presence became less threatening because he was always there. The chase between these characters would have been much more interesting if Javert’s presence was less predictable and more ominous, as a true villain should be. I also felt like the Thénardiers were significantly overused. If they’d only appeared to sing “Master of the House,” I would’ve been happy. However, we’re constantly watching them chase after Jean just as often as Javert does, though they don’t seem to have any real reason to blackmail him. Their presence hit the same comedic note every time, making it must less effective and much more annoying. If the majority of their scenes had been cut, we could have seen a bit more of the relationship development between Jean and Cosette or Eponine and Marius. However, we’re forced to sit through too many scenes of the same pointless banter with the Thénardiers who serve no purpose other than comedic relief. Oh, joy.
Generally speaking, my problems with the film were more related to production choices than the performances, though I am a bit displeased that Anne Hathaway is the favorite to win an Oscar for her performance. In my opinion, she gave a great performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” but the rest of her performance was hardly award-worthy because there wasn’t enough material for her to work with. In a just world, Jacki Weaver would win for Best Supporting Actress for her incredibly real performance in Silver Linings Playbook. As much as I wanted to love the movie, I only found myself wondering what it could have been, rather than being happy with what it actually was. At this point, I’m very interested to see the way the awards shows pan out, and I only hope that some other, more deserving films of 2012 sweep the biggest awards of the season.